Tuesday, July 15, 2008
posted 9:48pm
"Pool of Radiance"
This month marks the 20th anniversary for Pool of Radiance (1988), a groundbreaking game created by SSI (Strategic Simulations Inc.) using the AD&D rule system exclusively licensed from TSR. It was the first to use the "Gold Box Engine", named after the distinctive gold-colored boxes they were shipped in, and was initially available only on the Atari ST and Commodore 64, though soon ported to most major platforms, including the NES. The game was an instant best-seller, taking from the greatest RPG elements of the day - Bard's Tale (1985) and Wizard's Crown (1985) - creating an immersive game within the "Forgotten Realms" world that felt like a real place.

It used a coded wheel as a form of copy protection, which could also be used to decode runes found within the game, and it shipped with a 38 page "Adventures Journal" filled with entries that off loaded the text that the game engine couldn’t handle. Its success would spawn three more games over the next three years, Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989), Secret of the Silver Blades (1990), and Pools of Darkness (1991), each allowing characters to be imported from the previous game.

SSI continued to use this game engine creating a whole host of games, and in 1991 release Neverwinter Nights (1991-1997), the first graphical MMORPG; the predecessor of Ultima Online (1997-Present), Everquest (1999-Present), and World of Warcraft (2004-Present).

In its final release, the "Gold Box Engine" made its way to the public as Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures (1993), allowing players to create their own modules that are still shared today across the Internet on sites like the UA Archive.

Pool of Radiance is a great game, groundbreaking in its day, highly addictive and combat intense. It still remains a lot of fun, and has been repackaged a number of times. So break out the graph paper, the citizens of New Phlan need you.

- D

Tuesday, July 01, 2008
posted 7:09pm
The video game industry was birthed in 1972 with the creation of Pong, but the games wouldn't find their way into the home until the Commodore PET, Apple II, and TRS-80 Model I were released prior to Atari's invasion with the 2600. As gaming entered into the early 80's, these home computers became stronger with competing companies releasing the TRS-80 Model III, Commodore 128, and the Apple IIe by 1985. Better computers and more ram meant that we could go from simple games like Lemonade Stand (1979) to complicated simulations like Star Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative (1985). This idea of simulating things is at the very core of Interactive Fiction too, something you see throughout the history of early video game development.

I remember one of the most enjoyable number crunchers out there, Empire (1974), which I played across a BBS in 1988, dialing in to use up my turns. I can't even find that particular version on a telnet BBS, and searching for the game file to run on my own BBS has turned up nothing. So the next best thing is to write your own version. I wanted to do this years ago using Visual Basic, but with how the web is, I felt it would be better to do it in Java and then share it with all of you. It's a simple version of Empire, much like the old BBS game, allowing you to advanced by pressing any key. Of course when I played it on the BBS I had to wait until midnight for the game to advance, so this applet speeds things up a bit. :)

Enjoy - D

And if you remember this old BBS game, with rats that would consume your food, send me an e-mail.